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Spanish Preterite Stem Changes

Spanish Preterite Stem Changes

Stem-changing Verbs, Verbs with Spelling Changes, and Irregular Verbs

Quick Answer

Some Spanish preterite verbs undergo changes in the stem when conjugated. Others undergo more drastic spelling changes or are simply considered irregular. In this article, we'll take a look at some common verbs with tricky preterite conjugations, including

  • Stem-changing -ir verbs
  • Verbs with stems ending in a vowel
  • Verbs with j preterite stems
  • Verbs with uv preterite stems
  • Verbs with u preterite stems
  • Verbs with i preterite stems
  • The irregular verbs ser , ir , dar , and ver 

Looking for an introduction to the past tense in Spanish? Check out our article on Spanish preterite tense forms.

Stem-changing -ir Verbs

Verbs ending in -ir that undergo stem changes in the present tense also under go stem changes in the preterite. These verbs have a stem change in the second person formal singular (usted), third person singular (él, ella) and third and second person plural (ellos, ellas and ustedes) forms.

These changes fall into two types:

  • e to i, as in the verbs sentir  (to feel) and pedir  (to ask for)
  • o to u, as in the verb dormir  (to sleep)

Check out the conjugations for examples of these verb types below, paying careful attention the él, ella, usted and ellos, ellas, ustedes translations.

Preterite Conjugations of Sentir, Pedir, and Dormir

Subjectsentir  (to feel)pedir  (to order)dormir  (to sleep)
yo
sentí
 
pedí
 
dormí
 
sentiste
 
pediste
 
dormiste
 
él, ella, usted
sintió
 
pidió
 
durmió
 
nosotros
sentimos
 
pedimos
 
dormimos
 
vosotros
sentisteis
 
pedisteis
 
dormisteis
 
ellos, ellas, ustedes
sintieron
 
pidieron
 
durmieron
 

¡Ojo!  (Careful!) Reír  and sonreír  also have stem changes in the preterite. Check out the conjugations for these verbs below.

Preterite Conjugations of Reír and Sonreír

Subjectreír  (to laugh)sonreír  (to smile)
yo
reí
 
sonreí
 
reíste
 
sonreíste
 
él, ella, usted
rió
 
sonrió
 
nosotros
reímos
 
sonreímos
 
vosotros
reísteis
 
sonreísteis
 
ellos, ellas, ustedes
rieron
 
sonrieron
 

Here are examples of other verbs with the spelling changes described above.

SpanishEnglish
conseguir
 
to get
despedirse
 
to say goodbye
divertirse
 
to have fun
morir
 
to die
repetir
 
to repeat
servir
 
to serve, to function
sugerir
 
to suggest
vestirse
 
to get dressed

Verbs with j Preterite Stems

The majority of verbs ending in -ducir, as well as the verbs decir and traer, take a j in the preterite in all forms. In addition, the ellos, ellas, and ustedes forms of these verbs end in -eron instead of -ieron.

Check out the conjugations below for examples of these verb types.

Preterite Conjugations of Conducir and Traducir

Subjectconducir  (to lead)traducir  (to translate)
yo
conduje
 
traduje
 
condujiste
 
tradujiste
 
él, ella, usted
condujo
 
tradujo
 
nosotros
condujimos
 
tradujimos
 
vosotros
condujisteis
 
tradujisteis
 
ellos, ellas, ustedes
condujeron
 
tradujeron
 

Preterite Conjugations of Decir and Traer

Subjectdecir  (to say)traer  (to bring)
yo
dije
 
traje
 
dijiste
 
trajiste
 
él, ella, usted
dijo
 
trajo
 
nosotros
dijimos
 
trajimos
 
vosotros
dijisteis
 
trajisteis
 
ellos, ellas, ustedes
dijeron
 
trajeron
 

Verbs with Stems Ending in a Vowel

Verbs that have stems ending in a vowel + -er or -ir take a y in the él, ella, usted and ellos, ellas, ustedes forms.

Verbs ending in a silent vowel + -er or -ir (like seguir) do not undergo this change.

Check out the conjugations below for examples of these verb types.

Preterite Conjugations of Caer, Leer, Roer, Oír, and Concluir

Subjectcaer  (to fall)leer  (to read)roer  (to nibble)oír  (to hear)concluir  (to conclude)
yo
caí
 
leí
 
roí
 
 
concluí
 
caíste
 
leíste
 
roíste
 
oíste
 
concluiste
 
él, ella, usted
cayó
 
leyó
 
royó
 
oyó
 
concluyó
 
nosotros
caímos
 
leímos
 
roímos
 
oímos
 
concluimos
 
vosotros
caísteis
 
leísteis
 
roísteis
 
oísteis
 
concluisteis
 
ellos, ellas, ustedes
cayeron
 
leyeron
 
royeron
 
oyeron
 
concluyeron
 

Verbs that end in -uir, like concluir, construir, and incluir, do not have accents on their , nosotros or vosotros forms.

Verbs with uv Preterite Stems

Some common irregular verbs follow similar patterns in the preterite. For example, tener, andar, and estar all have preterite stems with uv.

Preterite Conjugations for Andar, Estar, and Tener

Subjectandar  (to walk)estar  (to be)tener  (to have)
yo
anduve
 
estuve
 
tuve
 
anduviste
 
estuviste
 
tuviste
 
él, ella, usted
anduvo
 
estuvo
 
tuvo
 
nosotros
anduvimos
 
estuvimos
 
tuvimos
 
vosotros
anduvisteis
 
estuvisteis
 
tuvisteis
 
ellos, ellas, ustedes
anduvieron
 
estuvieron
 
tuvieron
 

Verbs with u Preterite Stems

These common irregular verbs swap the first vowel in the infinitive form to make a new preterite stem with u.

Check out the conjugations below for examples of these verb types.

Preterite Conjugations of Caber, Haber, Poder, Poner, and Saber

Subjectcaber  (to fit)haber  (to have)poder  (to be able to)poner  (to put)saber  (to know)
yo
cupe
 
hube
 
pude
 
puse
 
supe
 
cupiste
 
hubiste
 
pudiste
 
pusiste
 
supiste
 
él, ella, usted
cupo
 
hubo
 
pudo
 
puso
 
supo
 
nosotros
cupimos
 
hubimos
 
pudimos
 
pusimos
 
supimos
 
vosotros
cupisteis
 
hubisteis
 
pudisteis
 
pusisteis
 
supisteis
 
ellos, ellas, ustedes
cupieron
 
hubieron
 
pudieron
 
pusieron
 
supieron
 

Caber, poner, and saber have extra spelling changes in the preterite:

  • caber: the b changes to a p.
  • poner: the n changes to an s.
  • saber: the b changes to a p.

Verbs with i Preterite Stems

These common irregular verbs swap the first (or, in the case of querer, the second) vowel in the infinitive form to make a new preterite stem with i.

Check out the conjugations below for examples of these verb types.

Preterite Conjugations of Hacer, Querer, and Venir

Subjecthacer  (to do)querer  (to want)venir  (to come)
yo
hice
 
quise
 
vine
 
hiciste
 
quisiste
 
viniste
 
él, ella, usted
hizo
 
quiso
 
vino
 
nosotros
hicimos
 
quisimos
 
vinimos
 
vosotros
hicisteis
 
quisisteis
 
vinisteis
 
ellos, ellas, ustedes
hicieron
 
quisieron
 
vinieron
 
  • In the él, ella and usted forms of hacer, the c changes to a z.
  • All preterite forms of querer swap the first r for an s.

The Irregular Verbs Ser, Ir, Dar, and Ver

The following irregular preterite forms are ones you've just got to memorize.

Preterite Conjugations of Ser, Ir, Dar, and Ver

Subjectser  (to be)ir  (to go)dar  (to give)ver  (to see)
yo
fui
 
fui
 
di
 
vi
 
fuiste
 
fuiste
 
diste
 
viste
 
él, ella, usted
fue
 
fue
 
dio
 
vio
 
nosotros
fuimos
 
fuimos
 
dimos
 
vimos
 
vosotros
fuisteis
 
fuisteis
 
disteis
 
visteis
 
ellos, ellas, ustedes
fueron
 
fueron
 
dieron
 
vieron
 

Looking for more on the preterite? Check out our articles on the preterite vs. the imperfect, verbs with meaning changes in the preterite, and spelling changes in the preterite.

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